Focusing on the real issues
From:            Stephen Dunifer <>
Jan 31, 1999


As you all know I have some major reservations and concern about engaging the FCC on their terms.  While we attempt to create widespread response and support for micropower broadcasting, directing it toward the FCC
during the comment period, we must not lose our focus.  An exceptional opportunity exists now for a masssive outreach and education campaign. Terms of debate and engagement must go beyond the rulemaking process.  As
a movement we need to frame the arguments around the concept of the airwaves being a public trust and resource and clearly defined First Amendment Rights.

Quoting from Gerry Spence's Justice for None:

"As newly freed people, our forefathers not only endowed us with the right but charged us with the duty to openly and lustily debate matters of public concern, to warn each other of new dangers to our liberty, and to hear each other and avoid the ensnaring traps of new masters.  It is a certainty that the nation's airways, the most potent force for freedom
ever invented by man, should be controlled by the people.  Our right to uninhibited access to the means of free speech is as important as the right itself, for although we may be free to cry out our griefs and expound our beliefs, if our voices echo against dead walls, the right itself is as dead.  The airways are ours like the sunshine, like the
atmosphere.  Yet in the hands of our enemies, the airways afford the most abominable tool of oppression ever conceived.  They are the first seized by every tyrant."

"The idea that in a democracy a free people should quietly accept the theft of their voice is, indeed, very radical.  Our "eternal vigilence" must have flickered.  Did we not understand what was happening to us ? What was ours was transformed into the corporate cyclops and then turned against us."

This is the message we must bring to the general public.  If we frame this issue within the larger context of the corporate control over our lives and the gagging of Free Speech rights, then we have a chance of going beyond the narrow boundaries inherent within the rulemaking process. Expanding the terms of debate and using this situation as a means to reach out to as many people as possible allows us to determine the rules and field of engagment.  Most of the time folks use the excuse that nothing they do will matter anyway as a cop-out for not taking any action.  With the right approach we can not only move folks to sending their comments to the FCC, we can say to them: "If you are really committed to Free Speech and striking back against corporate hegemony, you can take the next step and put your own community voice on the air.  Yes, there are risks but no one ever said fighting for your rights did not have a price". 

I have said it before and will continue to say it - our greatest asset is the ability to put radio stations on the air, demonstrating to all concerced how inexpensive and easy (relatively) it is to do.  By taking the course of non-violent electronic civil disobedience we forced the FCC to this point.  It is not time to decrease the pressure but it is time to
keep increasing it.  Let them consider the prospect of hundreds, thousands of new stations going on the air.  Stations set-up and run by every sort of person imaginable from senior community centers to hard core inner city housing projects.

We can do this.  I and others in the engineering group are working on new transmitter designs that will be much easier to operate.  We have other technical surprises waiting as well.

I will not be content with a few crumbs from an ever diminishing slice of pie carved from an ever shrinking pastry.  It is the whole damn pie shop and bakery, that is what we need to seize.  In the art of war the battle goes to the one who determines the field and rules of engagement.  If the FCC wants to declare war on people exercising their inalienable right of Free Speech then let them reap the whirlind of a major public relations diaster.


Stephen Dunifer
Free Radio Berkeley

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